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North Korea displays luxury Swiss watches at department store

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea appeared to be defying international sanctions with the opening of a newly renovated department store in Pyongyang. Photo by KCNA
North Korea appeared to be defying international sanctions with the opening of a newly renovated department store in Pyongyang. Photo by KCNA

April 15 (UPI) -- North Korea may have opened a newly renovated department store catering to its elite,  and it appears to be stocked with luxury goods that could be under international sanctions.

State media published photos of Pyongyang's newly improved Daesong Department Store on Monday, the same day the regime observed the 107th birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung.

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The country previously commemorated the day with military parades, but on Monday the regime marked the day quietly with a Kim Jong Un visit to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun.

KCNA reported the department store in the capital city had completed remodeling and opened on Monday.

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Photos from the state-controlled news agency shows expensive brands of jewelry and watches on display, including timepieces from Rolex.

Images of the household appliances section of the store indicate North Korea is selling Philips steam-generator irons and electronic rice cookers from Tiger Corp., a Japanese company. Washing machines and blenders are also on display.

Daesong Department Store mainly serves the country's elite, as well as foreigners. The store usually accepts foreign currency payments and may have begun accepting local money, according to South Korean paper Kukmin Ilbo.

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The images of the store come a week after Workers' Party paper Rodong Sinmun reported Kim visited the store for a "final inspection."

"As a result of a well-maintained modern department store, the capital city's citizens are able to further secure quality foodstuffs, clothes, shoes, housewares, daily necessities and school supplies," Kim reportedly said during the visit.

A source knowledgeable on North Korea told Kukmin Ilbo the luxury goods are likely brought into the country through diplomatic channels and procured by North Korean embassies abroad. Trade with China and Russia also facilitates the import of the products, the source said, adding sanctions may disrupt supply channels for the North.

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Cho Han-bum, a senior research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, said the promotion of the store is a display of resistance against sanctions, and ties in with Kim's policies on developing the economy.

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